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Becoming Who We Need To Be: A Theoretical Framework

Pause & Reflect

Where do you see yourself in this model? Where have you been in the past?

The human experience is like a kaleidoscope; you twist the lens and the picture evolves. Academic theory helps us to understand our experiences in the larger context. Theory can help us describe and normalize our experiences and see how they might resonate with others.  


The framework below builds upon current scholarship to create a new, evolved, and intersectional lens of identity development that speaks to the role of activism in this journey.


 Each lens provides the individual with a different way of seeing and understanding their place in the world, not unlike the way the view changes every time you turn a kaleidoscope. While it is not necessary to experience them in order, the iterative nature of these changing lenses may align with more impactful activist practices and deeper self-discovery.

Scroll down to see the model in action with a case study from AnneMarie about her work with the advocacy group Nutley for Black Lives


Image by Markus Spiske

Observing, Following, Signing Up

  • The student is noticing activist work around them on campus but perhaps doesn't see the connections to the outside world.

  • The student may engage in activist work as a spectator.

  • The student sees campus activism as something 'other people' do.

Click below to hear from student and LGBTQ+ activist Amos on the importance of finding spaces to engage

Amos on Finding Space






This could look like...

  • Seeing a group of students who seem interesting at the activities fair. They're wearing t-shirts about an issue that is trending on Twitter. You sign up for their listserv.

  • Your roommate leaves a flyer on your desk for a protest in the quad. You'll try and check it out if you can finish your homework


Becoming Through Engaging

AnneMarie (she/her) speaks to her movement through stages of reckoning with her identity as an activist:

  1. Joining a protest

  2. Taking an active role in leading others

  3. Using that platform to enact changes in policy

  4. Integrating that learning into her career path

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